history · museum studies · play and learn

Sangrahalya se parichaya: An introduction to Museums and Museum Studies Part 2

A quick documentation of thought bubbles erupting in the auto-rickshaw:

There is a need for change in our museums, yes, but not in seclusion. Change cannot be isolated, change has to be systemic, because things are connected in a complex interdependent fashion that naked eye does not see, but perhaps experience would teach us gradually.

Let us take a hypothetical example, though much borrowed from what surrounds in actuality, context being, a nationalised or state run museum in urban India.

You know what is worrisome? No, not the crumbling sofas, no not the lack of vitality, what is worrisome is the attitude of people towards an overarching system, a system which though created by people, has been allowed to attain such a demonic stature that it devours on any attempt at a squeaky change. Whether this change is introducing a new activity or using a different hall for meeting, there are procedures, and papers, and permissions, there is a massive loss of time and energy, and eventually interest.

But let me not get into babuism and administration issues, there is something that is even worse:

Consider this, the existence of a single narrative. Who has written the history of my nation? By the way, what did i just mean by saying “My” “Nation”? Whose perception of mainstream history is being followed? why can the subaltern not contest the big fat mainstream belief? can the museums be a space for that? will they allow questioning? of course not! the system won’t allow that!

So there is a certain narrative which incidentally is very much identical to school text books, which has been followed and will be followed until eternity. It might be spoken of with such confidence and certainty that you may not realize that you could very well look beyond that, choose not to believe it as the ultimate truth, and that is what worries me. A system where different modes of narration, be it education, media, spaces, where they are accustomed to a single tale, that system demands change from its various nodes, and not just one.

It seems almost impossible to think of any experimentation when the system in an institution is rigid. Power can also be beautiful, it can be creative, it can be empowering, but when it gets rigid, then it becomes a weakness.

I wish I could describe this better, but when in a museum people, researchers seem a little stiff, seem submissive, seem grateful at every step, it makes me wonder if there needs be more space for them to express freely, to be joyous, to be excited.

Wow, I managed to turn this into a rambling + sermon, I deserve a pat on the back.

Shall write more soon, on museums, too much learning, too much in head, too little time to document!!!


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